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How Jews Turn Hate Into Love: More than 200 Strangers Attend Israeli Couple’s Wedding

When news broke out of the attacks on Israel over the weekend, Jews everywhere were in shock. Included in that were newlyweds Anastasia and Nahum Mittelman, whose wedding was supposed to take place on Sunday evening at sunset, October 8. 

The two live in Tel-Aviv and were woken up early Saturday morning by sirens, which signals a rocket is coming and to immediately head to a bomb shelter. They soon learned of the atrocities going on in the south. It was clear that the original wedding they had planned wasn’t going to happen, but the two were still rock solid on the fact that they wanted to get married.

So, they decided to go for it anyway. Their DJ, photographer, rabbi, and most guests weren’t going to be able to make it, but they weren’t deterred, accepting the fact that the wedding might look different. So they got to work on Saturday making call after call to still make their marriage happen.

To backtrack, Anastasia is from London, England — she made aaliyah on her own six years ago. Nahum’s family were immigrants to Israel from Moldova, the former USSR. He grew up in Israel his entire life.

They met two years ago through OkCupid, a dating app and website. They started dating two years ago on October 14 and got engaged last New Year’s Eve.

At the time of making a decision, Anastasia’s mom, two sisters, baby nephew and a few friends were there. The couple wasn’t sure Nahum’s parents would even be able to attend — they live in Rehovot and were in the bomb shelter most of the day on Saturday (although in the end, they did). Many friends who flew in for the wedding left because they were scared to remain in the country and others from around weren’t able to travel anywhere.

So the couple got to work. Their rabbi recommended another rabbi closer who could marry them. They found a shul that could host the wedding since their original venue wasn’t going to work. 

Then, they tried to get a minyan since they didn’t have enough people from either of their families. Texts were sent out on group chats trying to get 10 men to attend. Little did they know, their wedding was about to be bigger than either of them could imagine.

More than 200 people showed up to celebrate the couple, including a full band that brought their instruments and performed for free. Others that neither of them knew brought flowers. Others created a huge kiddush for them. “People we didn’t know were giving us homemade cards with money inside,” Anastasia said in awe. “It was the best wedding I’ve ever been to. We danced until my feet started to bleed.”

Naturally, the initial decision whether to move forward or not was a tough call. In a time of mourning in Israel, many may not feel like a wedding wouldn’t be appropriate, or should be postponed. But once the decision to still get married was made, everything just flowed and the guests who attended were so grateful for the opportunity to connect and celebrate a Jewish union.

Anastasia said that all the people who attended just kept thanking them. “They said they needed [this experience] to gain koach (strength),” she said. “I hugged every person in that room.”

Even though the pain was there, the depth of feeling and devastation created the vessel for a heightened level of joy. “It wasn’t a normal wedding,” she explains. “It was like being a movie, I can’t even explain what it really felt like. We couldn’t have organized it to be as good.”

There is a big mitzvah to make a bride happy on her wedding day. One person in attendance heard the kallah was British, so he brought a funny apron with him saying “God Save the Queen.” “Who are you that you’re that thoughtful?” she says laughing. “It was this attention to detail.”

“[Hamas] was trying to attack the very essence of who we are,” she continues. “A simcha is the very essence of what Am Yisrael is. We are one unit. Even those that weren’t there watched it virtually and were crying.”

Hashem was with them throughout, and in interesting ways from the start. The two were supposed to get married on the 24th of Tishrei but when ordering some items for the wedding, Anastasia accidentally wrote the 23rd. She was so bummed about it at the time, but it turns out, it was a bit of foreshadowing and not a mistake at all.

Since the wedding, a friend made a sheva brachot for them and so many of the guests ended up being in attendance. They received tons of invites for Shabbat dinners. What started as a canceled wedding, turned into a community-wide event where the Jewish family connected, and became stronger and more united than ever.

“I said that if my grandfather could get through the Shoah, we can get married,” Anastasia said. “Our chuppah was my Zaydie’s talit.”

 

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